“Clean eating” has become a catchphrase lately, but what does it mean?
To eat clean means to ingest foods that are nutrient dense; unprocessed, preservative-free, hormone-free and as close to their natural state as possible. It also means to be aware of where your food is coming from in order to better understand what things you are putting into your body. Choosing locally grown foods and shopping at a farmer’s market for less expensive organic fruits and vegetables are easy ways to start eating clean. By doing this, you see first hand what the ingredients in your food look like in their natural, uncooked state and can learn where they are sourced, allowing you to make your own choices rather than letting a label or a package do it for you.
It’s not about “dieting” as much as it is getting back to basics. And it certainly doesn’t mean having to eat raw foods only. It also doesn’t mean that some foods are “dirty”- you may want to think of foods in terms of “whole” and “altered”. Whole foods come as they are, without any processing, while altered foods involve processes that change them, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
One reason to eat clean is to get the maximum amount of nutrients out of your food. For instance, instead of throwing your fruit into a blender and making a smoothie or a juice, eat the fruit in its whole form. You will benefit from the fiber (which is being stripped in the blending process) as well as allowing your body to break down the food more slowly keeping you fuller longer.
Getting back to nature and enjoying real food, you will also taste the difference. You can actually taste what you’re eating instead of just the added butter, sugar or salt that accompanies packaged foods.
Whole foods will keep you satisfied, improve your digestion and give you more energy. They provide more nourishment and hence, offer greater benefits. It’s also easier to get all of your essential nutrients when relying on whole foods in addition to stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
Since clean eating is not a diet, there isn’t a full list of what’s included and what isn’t. Instead, there are guidelines of how to pick foods:
The main element to avoid in clean eating is processed foods. To do this, try to avoid:
Watch out for added sodium- like refined sugar, added salt is found in all sorts of processed foods. You don’t need to take salt out of your diet completely but be aware of how much your taking in.
The clean eating process takes time and effort. You need to prepare in advance. Keep healthy choices in your kitchen so you aren’t tempted to reach for the unhealthy items.
Evaluate your progress each day (or week) if it’s still feels like your goals are an effort – do not get discouraged. It’s important to incorporate this new way of eating slowly.
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Be patient until you reach a point where 80% of the food you are consuming comes from natural sources. This is a manageable way to maintain clean eating as a lifestyle and not see it as a “diet”.
Remember that clean eating isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle that allows for flexibility and change when necessary. It is also a big commitment so if you seriously considering making this change to your eating habits, do your research and find out what ingredients you can get easily, what dishes you can prepare based on your time limitations and cooking abilities and how you can make it work with your current way of life. Often, big changes like these are easiest to adopt when you are doing it with others so get friends and family on the bandwagon with you. That way, you can enjoy your clean eating prep and meals together and bounce ideas off each other.
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